Republic Producer, Billy Smedley with Creator/Director, Sally McLean and US actor, Johnny Whitaker, who was being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award on the red carpet at the 2017 Peak City International Film Festival. Photo by Phillips Photography NC.

Happy New Year!

We hope everyone had a fantastic break over the Christmas/New Year period and are coming into 2018 raring to go! We’ve had some wonderful news over the holiday period, with another official selection for Speaking Daggers and Shakespeare Republic and some big plans for Season Three of the Republic being formed.  But before we get onto all that, we need to cover the last two legs of our epic USA tour in November, so here’s Part 4 … North Carolina and the Peak City International Film Festival!

What an epic month November was! Republic members Sally McLean and Billy Smedley had the great pleasure of travelling around America for the Republic in the lead up to Thanksgiving, as you may have seen from our social media updates, and so we’re giving you a quick round-up of everything that happened, because it was an action-packed trip and we want to share it with you as much as possible! So here’s Part Four of the Republic’s USA trip, straight from Creator/Director, Sally McLean …

The Holiday Inn Express in Apex, North Carolina with Billy standing out the front. Photo by Sally McLean.

After a very civilised one and a bit hour’s flight from Newark to Raleigh, we landed up on the outskirts of the historic town of Apex, about 25 minutes drive from Raleigh in North Carolina. We’d booked into the Holiday Inn Express, which was the Peak City International Film Festival Sponsor and accommodation partner, and as it turns out, it was a really lovely place to stay. Surrounded by trees in their Autumn foliage and surprisingly quiet for a motel near a freeway, we proceeded to get ready for the reason we’d made the journey to this part of the world … attending the Gala Closing Night of PCIFF, where Speaking Daggers was a Finalist in the Best Short Film category.

Film Producer, Christy McGlothlin with Republic Creator/Director, Sally McLean at the Holiday Inn Express, waiting to be picked up by their antique car to be driven to Apex and the Gala Closing Night of the Peak City International Film Festival, where Christy’s film “Unbridled” was the Closing Night Film. Photo by Billy Smedley.

Due to the Apex Holiday Inn Express being a sponsor for the festival, all the various filmmakers who were attending the Gala Closing Night Ceremony congregated in the foyer of the hotel, and so we got a head start on meeting some of our fellow nominees before the antique car motorcade began lining up in front of the venue, ready to take us to the Halle Cultural Arts Center of Apex where the festival had been taking place over the past week.

We eventually jumped into the amazing antique cars provided and drove the short ten minute trip up to the center of Apex, before disembarking on the red carpet while being announced over the PA and walking into a barrage of camera flashes before entering the venue. It was surreal and such a surprise, but truly lovely and really well done.

John Demers, Peak City International Film Festival Director with Shakespeare Republic/Speaking Daggers Director, Sally McLean in the foyer of the Halle Cultural Centre. Photo by Billy Smedley

Once inside the venue, I had the great pleasure of finally getting to meet John Demers, PCIFF Director, whom I had been corresponding with since 2016 when the festival officially selected my Season One episode of Shakespeare Republic (Sonnet #18) and subsequently awarded it with Silver Gaddy Award for Best Mobisode or Web Short , which was the first award that Shakespeare Republic won on the circuit, which meant so much to me, as you can imagine. John was lovely, funny and warm and so pleased to see us there all the way from Oz. I was so pleased to finally say thank you for the 2016 award in person!

Then it was time for the 2017 Awards and so we all headed into the upstairs theatre to begin. Little did we know there were more surprises in store for us!

Sally McLean accepts the award for Best Short Film at the Peak City International Film Festival with Festival Director, John Demers and Host, Amy Simon

Yes, that is me standing at a podium, speaking. We had barely got settled into our seats, when I was somehow standing up and walking onto the stage. The first award of the night announced was Best Short Film and I was somewhat gobsmacked to hear the words “And the winner is … Speaking Daggers, directed by Sally McLean” come out of John’s mouth. He had to call me up onto the stage, because I honestly didn’t think I’d heard him right!

But I had and naturally I hadn’t prepared anything, so I have no idea what I said. I hope I thanked Peak City International Film Festival and JD and his team for this honour.  Because it is an honour and I was so overwhelmed. It was extraordinary being there in person and collecting an award from the festival on the other side of the world that had first awarded my work with Shakespeare a year prior. I was quite emotional, and likely sounded very scattered.  It affected me more than I thought it would. But I am so glad I was there and so grateful to John and the jury for giving Speaking Daggers it’s first award, as they did to Shakespeare Republic before it. I sense a theme here!

Sally McLean with her award for Best Short Film with Apex Mayor, Lance Olive at the Peak City International Film Festival reception. Photo by Billy Smedley

Once the Awards were done and the Closing Night film’s final credits rolled, we headed back down to continue celebrating at the Mayor’s Cheerwine FilmMakers Reception, where Billy and I also got to finally meet and chat with Apex Mayor, Lance Olive, who is a lovely human being and wears a cowboy hat very well. Mayor Olive had also watched our short film, as it turns out he’s quite a film buff, and he had some lovely things to say about the work, which was very kind of him. He also broke down the film in a really glowing critique that told me he knew quite a bit about storytelling, because he just “got” what I was going for with the film. Turns out he studied screenwriting back in the day, so I’m expecting to see his work on a screen sometime soon (if you’re reading this Lance – I meant that!).

Billy Smedley, Sally McLean and Mayor Lance Olive at the Peak City International Film Festival in Apex, NC

And so, as the night came to a close, Billy and I said our farewells and accepted the very kind offer of a lift back to the hotel from Christy McGlothlin and her husband who are fairly prolific filmmakers in the local area, where we discussed funding, how they manage to work with everything else going on in their lives and how important it is to have women’s voices in the film world. It was lovely to meet both of them, and all the other filmmakers on the night and I am so glad we got to attend the festival … finally!

The next day dawned, and Billy and I took some time to go explore the town centre of Apex, which is a lovely town with a lot of heritage.

Billy Smedley finds an appropriately themed park bench in Apex to watch the world pass by. Photo by Sally McLean

Then it was back to the hotel after a quick trip for dinner supplies and an early night so we could be up and out of the hotel by 4am to catch our 6am flight to Los Angeles. Yes, I do get up that early after sleeping … but usually only for filming or flights!

The final instalment detailing our amazing time in the USA will be coming next week, but for now, I just want to say thank you to the Peak City International Film Festival organisers and the Jury for making us feel so welcome and honouring us with this award. It truly means so much to me and all the team and it now has pride of place in the office here in Melbourne! I’m very grateful and so pleased I could be there in person with Billy to accept it. Here’s to new friends and health and happiness to all in Apex. Thank you again for making our short trip to North Carolina so memorable!

More to come soon …

Till then – stay well, be happy and speak anon,


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